This page discusses the following topics:

  • Saving to a network
  • Saving to the computer and various devices
  • Advantages and uses of various storage media
  • Safe use of storage media

Online storage is often the best option if you want to back up your files or access them at another location. However, an online location is not always the best or most convenient storage place: a network connection is not necessarily available at all times and in all places. The storage and retrieval of large amounts of data to and from an online location may take a lot of time, whereas storing to and downloading from a removable USB memory stick, for example, can often be done in an instant.

Saving online

Network drives

As a student of the University of Helsinki, you have access to the UH home directory (the Z: drive on UH computers). It is the preferred online storage location as there your data is safe from unauthorized use and is backed up automatically every night. You can access your home directory not only at the University of Helsinki but also anywhere in the world.

Cloud services

Data storage and sharing services, where data is stored online on third-party servers, are also called cloud services. There are different cloud services for different operating systems, such as OneDrive for Windows, iCloud for Apple and so on. There are also several independent (such as Funet Filesender) and commercial (Google Drive, Dropbox etc.) data storage services.

All university Office 365 users automatically have access to Microsoft’s OneDrive, a cloud service that lets you store, share and work on your files either by yourself or together with your friends and colleagues, also outside the university.

You should also keep in mind that you cannot access the data in the cloud without a network connection unless you have been synchronizing the storage folder with a local folder on your computer or device.

Storage media

You can save files to removable media (such as USB memory, external hard drives, etc.) in the same way as your computer’s hard drive. However, different devices have different uses, so it is important that you can choose the right type of media for each task, such as backing up and moving files from one place to another.

USB memories

USB memory sticks (USB, Universal Serial Bus) are connected to the USB port of a computer or another device. USB memory sticks can be used to transfer data between different devices (such as laptops, desktop computers and modern televisions) and operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc.) as long as the files to be transferred are compatible.

USB flash drives can have different memory capacities. It is advisable to buy one with a high enough capacity (say, 16 GB). More information on file size units can be found here. USB sticks can be easily lost or destroyed and are therefore not considered very good storage media.

External hard drives

External hard drives are popular especially for storing large amounts of data (such as photos and videos), as well for moving the data from one place to another. An external hard drive can typically hold dozens of times more data than, say, a USB flash drive.

External hard drives are usually connected to a USB port, after which you can save data on them in the same way as on a USB flash drive. Even though external hard drives are enclosed in strong protective casings, they are sensitive to sharp impacts.

Advantages and uses of different storage media

As the usability, cost and quality of the different storage methods vary, you should choose the most appropriate method for your particular task. The following table shows examples of the general features and uses of the different methods.

Medium Price Application Usability Reliability
Personal UH home directory, the Z drive EUR 0 Saving, moving and backing up files Easy and fast UH has its own backup tapes, folders have restore points for previous versions!
Cloud service EUR 0 (UH’s OneDrive) Saving, moving and sharing files Very easy, but slow if data volume is high Fairly reliable, no back-ups
USB flash drive EUR 5-25 Moving, saving files. Very quick, easy Not 100% reliable!
External hard drive EUR 50-100 Moving, saving and back-up copying large amounts of data. Works in the same way as a USB flash drive Not 100% reliable!

Safe use of storage media

The device is automatically displayed as a disk drive when you plug it into your computer. The storage medium you have plugged in will usually appear under the manufacturer name, the name Removable Disk or, if you have renamed it, under the name you specified.

Whichever device you use, you should consider at least the following:

  • Storage media can become broken. For example, you may get a “Not formatted” message, which may be an indication that the files in the memory have been destroyed. In that case, try reading the memory on another computer.  You should never rely on a USB flash drive to store the only copy of your important files!
  • Sometimes it takes a while for the removable medium to appear in the directory.  Do not panic: wait calmly for the device to appear.
  • When unplugging the removable medium from your computer, make sure you have closed all files on it. In the worst case, removing the medium may break a file that is open
  • Remove storage media safely by using the Safely Remove Hardware function: click the icon shown in the image with the primary mouse button and select the media you want in the menu that appears.

Do not forget to make back-up copies of your data regularly: no storage method is 100% reliable! More information on making back-up copies.